The trails of the mystique, agelong and entrenched traditional practice of deity worship has its roots in African history and dates to ancient Egypt although some historians hold that it finds its root from the Mesopotamic era. But despite the position held on exact source of deity worship, what can generally be accepted is that the practice is synonymous with human history.

For instance, Ogun, an important and highly regarded Yoruba deity, is one of the earliest Yoruba deities that are said to derive their power directly from ‘Olodumare’, the Supreme Being, who sustains and upholds the universe. He is described as a pan Yoruba deity of relatively even character and significance as the deity of iron and war.

According to Yoruba mythology, Ogun was a hunter who usually came down from heaven by a spider’s thread upon the primordial mushy waste for his hunting expedition. This, the mythology holds, was before the earth was founded. Thus, predating the existence of deity to human history.

As Dr. Yemi Olusegun, a distinguished university don, notes in his treatise: Literary and Cultural Aspects of Ogun Deity: A Study of Ogun Festival in Ondoland “Ogun festival is premodial among the Ondo people because the festival is timeless for it is centuries old, while the beliefs and worships associated with it constitute traditional ideologies and taproots of ethnic culture.

“It is with this theme of Ogun festival that this paper is concerned. The emphasis is only on the exploration of the literary and cultural aspects of Ogun deity in relation to Ogun festival in Ondoland that connect the community as a whole. With few exceptions, much of what is classified here as Ogun festival in Ondoland could also be found in other Yoruba communities. However, specific variations caused by local peculiarities make an interesting study,” he submits.

The variation in context that Dr. Olusegun alluded to is what largely defines the crux of Obadimeji masquerade rite. Matted in rituals of varying degrees as held by folklore; the facts of which are closely guarded secrets from time immemorial, Obadimeji masquerade worshipped as deity and seen only once in a full calendar year chooses its host. The costume for worship is usually sown with red lace and damask fabric. White as a colour is forbidden for the worship of Obadimeji. The role of host, to perform the sacred duty of being intubated by the fiery spirit is reserved for the first-born son and the eldest of any of Opayinka, Opadiran or Ojesanmi family tree.

It is a role every chosen person embraces, and it signposts the age of maturity. First born sons in the respective families are regarded as priceless tokens of Obadimeji, set aside for his worship. The ritual comes with years of preparation. Every first-born son from each of the respective families in the line of succession after his seventh birthday is initiated to begin the lifelong preparation for the worship of Obadimeji. It is a thing of pride. It is culture. It is tradition.

Going by history any member of the family that abandons the long-standing family tradition of worshipping Obadimeji stands endangered. Reports are rife of the damning repercussions that have been visited on those who turn their backs on Obadimeji.

The tradition no doubt has suffered setbacks in recent times on account of the influence of Christianity, mainly. Some of those who were chosen from birth and prepared for the service of Obadimeji, have also eloped from the tradition, claiming civilization and the modern era negate the rituals, customs and traditions of our people associated with the Obadimeji masquerade rites. What remains to be seen is whether or not, such an elopement is truly liberating especially after completion of the initiation ritual.

While opponents of the Obadimeji Masquerade rites oppose it based on the dynamism of culture and human rights, proponents argue on whether man can dictate to deity. Both arguments have merit and while they subsist, the binding grip of Obadimeji holds true.

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